Peter Sirr draws on the classics — Homer, Catullus, Sappho — to ask if we, in comparison, live in a disenchanted world:
Diminished? Really? Gods don’t hold us, the temples
wither, the priests are all in sales
but the sun still shines, the oxen low
and the winedark sea is still as dark as wine.
He acknowledges world-traumas — the Final Solution, “Shahad, Rawan, Maram / this hand in the rubble / these broken shutters / shrapnel on the bed cover” — while risking, as Auden had it, a voice of affirmation and praise. I admire this book for how it registers the weight of the world, and also for its creative resistance to the brutality of the actual.
Sirr combines vivid forms, their hewn heft . . . with a felicitously wrongfooting weirdness all his own: “as if here we might be, when it’s all over, / walking through fields of Lidl”; “the deviceless avenue / notified by trees, alerted / by fuchsia, montbretia”. Each poem seems written with immense care, not only to arrange words scintillatingly, but also to preserve the briefest, most otherwise-ephemeral details. Reading these poems, we’re reminded that exactly where we’re vulnerable is where change is possible.